Category Archives: Daniel Anderson

The Door to Doom is Now Wide Open

Art by Sam Haney

Story By Daniel Anderson

The nation of Sweden is quite well versed in metal.

From Meshuggah to Opeth, Entombed to Amon Amarth, Bathory to Ghost, metal music has thrived in this country for decades. However mainstream or underground the names may be, the genre has remained popular nonetheless.Yet throughout this country’s layered history in the genre, few Swedish metal bands have ever been as revered as the doom-laden Candlemass.

Forming in 1984 in Stockholm by bassist and sole consistent member Leif Edling, Candlemass embarked on a distinct metal movement during the mid to late 80s, doom metal. It typically is not a very extreme form of the metal genre (some might even call it simplistic), but extremity is not what it needs to focus on. This genre is familiarized by its slow tempo, titanic riffs, and thunderous volume. In doing so, the overall sound produced gives off an ominous presence: one that gives the listener a sense of impending doom (hence the name).

Around the time of the band’s hay day, the genre of doom metal was viewed by many as a bastion of a sound that had been existent since the 70s (thanks to Black Sabbath, of course). Contemporaries such as Trouble, Saint Vitus and Pentagram had jumped onto the bandwagon of Sabbath worship.

Candlemass, however, changed that notion with albums like Epicus Doomicus Metallicus and Nightfall. Instead of the familiar stoner riffs of the decade prior, the band opted for grand production and a dramatic new sound for the genre— vocals and all. They had essentially turned doom metal into opera.

From then on, Candlemass kept turning the wheel for their newly updated genre (which they dubbed “epic doom metal”). Though this did not come without its faults. The band has consistently picked up and dropped its members like jacks, and hiatuses  were certainly not unheard of.

Despite all of that, Candlemass persisted. Time and time again, the band kept releasing albums which mostly garnered warm reception from critics and fans. But after their 2012 release Psalms for the Dead, Candlemass fell silent with their streak of albums.

There was no complete studio silence, though. In that time, they released two EPs, Death Thy Lover and House of Doom. However, with their fifth vocalist, Mats Levén, they lacked the truly operatic voice which had helped give the band its identity.

Once he was outed, the band once again needed someone to take the mantle of vocals. Much to the surprise of their fans, the original vocalist for the band, Johan Länqvist, decided to take on that role once again.

Thus, we now have Candlemass’ twelfth studio album, The Door to Doom. And what an excellent return to form it is.

With so many lineup changes in their discography, one might expect a band such as Candlemass to act dysfunctional, especially considering how long they have been doing this sort of thing.

Yet that is not what is on display here. Straight from the opening track, “Splendor Demon Majesty,” it becomes clear that Candlemass can still offer the devilish and melodic guitar lines, crushing production, and ominous vibes that made them beloved in the first place.

Längqvist’s vocals, while obviously aged, have fared much greater than most other long-running bands. Take the new recording of the track, “House of Doom,” for instance. While the excellent instrumentals have not changed much since last time, the more operatic tone that the vocals on the new version bring forth make the comparison between this and the original version seem like day and night. With one simple change, this band become instantly more recognizable.

The third track, “Astorolus – The Great Octopus” is perhaps the most outstanding example of fresh offerings on this album. While not as occult as many of the other songs in their discography, the Lovecraftian lyrics of an oceanic monstrosity certainly fill in the gap of ever-present evil just perfectly.

But most notable of all, this track features a winding guest guitar solo from the legendary Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi. Just knowing that this band has garnered the attention and collaboration of one of heavy metal’s most essential forefathers goes to show how far Candlemass has come since its inception.

However, straightforward doom and gloom is not all that is brought to the table here. There are several moments throughout this album which show that the band also has versatility under its belt. Instances such as the intro to the track, “Under the Ocean,” which has a psychedelic vibe comparable to that of Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter.”

That same vibe takes complete control on the fourth track, “Bridge of the Blind.” This track is a nice change of pace, basically acting as an acoustic interlude.

The track “Black Trinity” contains the moment most atypical of this band, however. It starts out with some of the heaviest and most distorted guitar licks on the album, almost like an Electric Wizard track. But then there is an eerie drum break starting around the four-minute mark, including what sounds like a pair of maracas in the background. Needless to say, this moment sticks out like a sore thumb, but in an interesting way.

One more important thing to note about this album is the mixing. Make no mistake, this album is as heavy and hard-hitting as any frequent metal listener would expect. The sheer emphasis on the drums and guitar distortion help this album sound even more monstrous than it already was. It is not exactly as heavy as something like, say, a High on Fire record, but it more than gets the job done.

In essence, The Door to Doom is the album that long time listeners of Candlemass have been craving for years now. It blends the new and the old of the band into a seamless recording. Plus, given that a good majority of the tracks abide by doom metal standards, it also makes for a good album to engage new listeners with.

One thing this album is not, however, is a sequel to their debut, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus (despite what some fans claim). Then again, it does not need to be. By now, this band has gone through so many different phases and lineups that making something entirely reminiscent of their earliest works would be futile. Candlemass has remained a surprisingly consistent band when it comes to sound and style, but the subtle changes they have made along the way have kept this band from reaching their permanent expiration date.

Late-career highlights are certainly not unheard of for metal bands, but only a band like Accept can match the consistency that Candlemass has had past their prime. For a band that has been around for 35 years, and with fairly little change to the sound of their repertoire, it is quite amazing that Candlemass can still bring about great albums in this great of a volume.

The Door to Doom is the newest evidence of this claim.

 

Standout Tracks: Under the Ocean, Astorolus – The Great Octopus, Black Trinity, House of Doom

Score: 8.5/10

Kid A inspires listeners almost 20 years after release

By Daniel Anderson

The decade, century, and millennium were all heading to an anticipated closing point. Around the same time, a certain alt-rock band living near Oxford University was becoming increasingly exhausted with their own work. For Radiohead, days were long and tumultuous.

Touring over a year for their groundbreaking third project OK Computer did not exactly help with that, either. This led to lead singer Thom Yorke suffering a near-mental breakdown by the time the tour was over.

But the band knew, much like everyone else, that a year passing is a time for change. And with a once-in-a-lifetime experience such as the beginning of the 21st century, Radiohead knew that their britpop sound of the 90s just could not last. It was time to take a different approach.

The turn of the century had passed, and the effects that britpop bands like Oasis and Blur on music as a whole were fading rapidly. Enter a genre on the rise that would have untold amounts of influence on both Radiohead’s next project and the soundscape of the 21st century itself: electronica. This was the place where Yorke knew to start.

It took quite a bit of effort for him to convince his fellow band members Jonny and Colin Greenwood, Phil Selway, Ed O’Brien, and his producer, Nigel Godrich, of his new vision. But alas, in the midst of autumn in the year 2000, the fourth project of Radiohead’s discography had been unveiled: Kid A.

By this time, Radiohead had learned their lesson about aging in music. So the band made the bold decision of stripping Jonny of his guitar and took the next step into the ice-cold sound that OK Computer had started.

Take the opening track “Everything In Its Right Place” for example. Using only the accompaniment of an electric piano and eerie distortion effects on both the background and Yorke’s signature, nasly vocals ensures the listener of what exactly they are in for.

Even more unsettling is the constant repetition of the track’s title in a relatively monotone fashion. It gives off an immediate sense of Orwellian control, like it is merely an automated response.

Almost every track on this album has a level of production which gives off a looming sense of powerlessness. Track #5, “Treefingers,” is an ambient instrumental track which only uses heavily processed samples of Ed O’ Brien’s guitar to give an ominous yet sedating ambience. It is like an out-of-body experience made sound.

The disjointed transition between this track and the track proceeding it, “Optimistic,” gives an effective wake-up call effect to the listener.

The experimental element of the album is undoubtedly what kept critics and fans of Radiohead’s previous discography divided for some time, but this album does not entirely reside in the electronics department. Track #3, “The National Anthem,” takes both a Talking Heads and jazz-inspired route which includes an instrumental overload near the end, like the sound of someone having a panic attack being translated into a horn section.

Despite this, there are parts in the album that seem to reminisce the melancholic instrumentations that their previous work had hailed. In fact, track #4, “How to Disappear Completely,” could be very well fit on previous efforts such as “The Bends.” It is a seamless contrast opposed to the rambunctious nature of the track prior.

Of course, moments like those could only keep the spotlight on for so long as the band still maintained focus on harnessing their new sound.

Track #8, “Idioteque,” turns the dial up on intensity. It combines an Aphex Twin-esque IDM aesthetic alongside lyrics that seem to convey an apocalyptic situation or a world in panic, “Ice age coming/Ice age coming/ Throw it in the fire/Throw it in the fire.” All of this occurs while still strangely having a pseudo-beat set against it, like a Danse Macabre for the modern age.

The particular 9th track, “Morning Bell” contains varied instrumentation such as the ambient synths similar to that of “Treefingers” mixes in a high-pitched guitar solo,, which oddly doesn’t feel too out of place. This is accompanied with lyrics which give such strange instrumentals the feeling of being in a daze, “Clothes are all over the furniture/Now I might as well/I might as well/Sleepy jack the fire drill/Run around around around around around.”

It is unusual to think that a project like this would not cap off with a track that cultivate so many prior elements of the album such as “Morning Bell.” Rather, the listener is treated to a much more dreary closer on track #10, “Motion Picture Soundtrack.”

At this point, the band has unexpectedly ditched the electronics, as if they were finally released from the technological imprisonment that the album consistently alludes to. Only two instruments are used on this song: a confused yet elegant synth harp section, and a pedal organ. Both of these, combined with Yorke’s most human-esque vocals on the album, leave off on a note of sorrow and ambiguity.

In essence, “Kid A” is a project that, while still having a tremendous influence on artists today (Danny Brown’s “Old” for example), is not really meant for every audience. As clean and haunting as the album sounds, the constant distortion can prove to be difficult to listen to for the impatient. Also, the pretentious reputation that Radiohead has earned among critics and listeners throughout the years because of albums like these does not really help much either.

For as bold of a move as this was for the time, there are certainly moments scattered throughout this album that have not aged so pristinely. The title track, for example, will probably not be seen as the most cutting-edge thing the band has put out. But that is a rather minor fault in comparison with the rest of this absolute monolith.

As for those who do enjoy a more icy and sound, they’ve probably already listened to it more than once. Saying that “Kid A” is a musical gold mine in the 21st century would be a severe understatement.

Verdict

Instrumentals: A-
Production: A+
Vocals/Lyrics: A
Variety: A
Overall Grade: A+

Favorite Track: Idioteque

Least Favorite Track: none

 

Daughters Return with an Absolute Vengeance

By Daniel Anderson

A key factor to a successful artist is their ability to hone their skills. It is a gradual process for sure; changes will inevitably occur in one’s work. But so long as that change can be managed and controlled, then they can still sound as good as ever.

Such has been the case for the Rhode Island-based noise rock group, Daughters.

This band first built their sound off of grindcore music. For their first two releases, Daughters did not exactly become the biggest band in the world (after all, grindcore is a genre that makes an art form out of songs that can be less than 10 seconds).

But somewhere along the way, something about the band changed. With the release of their self-titled album in 2010, Daughters abandoned their extreme, Dillinger-Escape-Plan-esque style. Instead, the sound which they embarked on leaned closer to a much more industrial vibe, while still maintaining the savagery and abrasiveness of their prior work.

For a long while, that album was considered to be the band’s swansong, as they were not heard from for years on end. But that all changed in 2015, when the band announced online that they would be making new music.

Fast-forward to 2018, and the band released the teaser tracks “Satan in the Wait,” “The Reason They Hate Me” and “Long Road, No Turns” for their newest release. All three of these tracks provided a chilling example of what was to come (the term chilling would probably be an understatement, really).

That level of uneasiness coming from those three tracks would only intensify with the long-awaited release of their comeback, You Won’t Get What You Want.

The title was well applied, as it insinuated what was to come.

Right from the get-go with the first track “City Song,” the listener is greeted with a horrifying presence. The drums open so randomly and so deafeningly in this track that it comes off a lot like a jumpscare — and it works just as effectively as well.

As the thunderous instrumentals drone on for a good portion of the track, somewhere around the four-and-a-half minute mark, they implode into a shrieking nightmare made sound. It should also be worth mentioning that Alexis Marshall’s almost spoken-word vocals combined with the sounds of him seemingly having a nervous breakdown in the background make this track even more manic and horrendous.

That was just the first track on this escapade and already this album can make even the most adventurous of listeners quiver in fear.

The ride only goes downhill from here.

Almost every track following seems to follow some sort of template, in fact one might even bear able to tell based on the song’s length. The fourth and fifth tracks, “The Flammable Man” and “The Lords Song,” both travel at blistering tempos and are the shortest tracks on the album. `

That still does not undermine the terror that these tracks bring. The crushing drums and guitars which almost sound synthesized both combine on these tracks to make the listener quake in their boots.

Although these tracks are still raw and untamed, “The Lords Song” does hinder the pacing of this album by a little bit. This is due to its placing after the “The Flammable Man.” If it came after a track longer than itself, such as the seventh track, “Daughter,” then perhaps the track would appear a bit more forceful than it already is.

Given the majority of Daughters’ discography, one might think that these shorter tracks are the ones that the band would fancy the most on the album. But, strangely enough, the biggest highlights of this project are the much longer tracks.

Now that more time is given to the band to focus on expanding their sonic boundaries, they have since crafted some of the most harrowing listening experiences of the past few years.

Tracks such as the previously mentioned second track, “Long Road, No Turns,” and the monstrous ninth track, “Ocean Song,” not only help give the album some weight in its tracklist, but are each as spine-shivering as the track before them.

“Ocean Song” in particular may just be the most defining track on the album. Lyrically, it paints an unhinged image of a man named Paul who returns home and is struck by a sense of unreasonable fear, causing him to run away. All the while he feels as if there will inevitably be something that catch up and grab him by the shoulder, “Knocking over trash as he makes his way/Sprinting like some wild animal/A blur beneath the streetlamps/Overhead, a terror-scream.”

Once again, the instrumental work on this track still makes the listener feel as if several needles are slowly, agonizingly piercing them from all sides and directions. It kind of feels like the album in a nutshell: a sense of overwhelming yet unexplainable fear grasping for the listener ever so frequently.

However, none of the other tracks have balanced the sheer malevolence of this album with just the slightest tinge of serenity quite as well as the lead single to this album, “Satan in the Wait.”

The track still welcomes the listener with as much paranoia as they would expect. The driving force of the drums gives off the feeling of some monstrous beast stomping ever nearer. It does not help that what’s delivered through Alexis’ crazed vocals mixes seamlessly with lyrics that resemble the inner ramblings of a madman, “Some faces not even a mother can love.”/ Says the spit and spatter of broken glass from above/ “There’s a tombstone where your headboard used to be.”/ They tell him every night before sleep.”

Even throughout the lunacy, there is still a well placed and, one would dare say, serene instrumental interlude during the chorus. It is this fill that provides comfort (or lack thereof) to the listener during such a demented experience.

But for the listener, it all changes during the final section of the track, when the instrumental that once provided them a shimmer of light during the chorus turn completely south, becoming part of the horrific experience that looms over the experience of the album.

What was once an illusion of serenity has now shown itself to be a hideous murder scene.

And that’s what makes this such an unforgiving experience. The album is like a stalking killer: no matter the efforts, there is nothing that the listener can do against the sheer force that this album brings.

Even during the sixth and seventh tracks, the “slowest” points on the album, “Less Sex” and “Daughter,” there is a bigger feeling of uneasiness and paranoia than most of the other tracks.

Yet, after all that, the album will not let up its animalistic nature. The final track, “Guest House,” goes full-throttle on the ears. Every bit in the instrumental with its panicking drums and guitars make the whole track sound like an alarm signifying the end of the world. It is as if some violent creature has escaped its prison, and has set out on a merciless rampage.

At this point, Alexis’ vocals have reached peak hysteria. On this track in particular, the lyrics he flat-out yells in this track go along perfectly with its desperation, especially with the repeated “let me in!” mantra.

This album, in its entirety, is the perfect recipe to make the listener uneasy. The insane and frantic vibe that it gives with its haunting instrumentals and yelping vocals make this perhaps the most electrifying audio experience this year; like a David Byrne album from hell.

While it is not as weird or experimental as something like Death Grips’ Year of the Snitch, it still should be noted that casual listeners would probably not be fond of sitting on the edge of their seats.

Even still, those looking for a challenge with their listening experience will surely suffice. With this album, the band has reached a milestone in the evolution of their soundscape.  Daughters fulfilled the title of their latest release, they didn’t give what the fans wanted. But what they did give was more riveting than what they could have ever imagined.

Verdict

Production A
Instrumentals A
Vocals B+
Lyrics/Songwriting A+
Accessibility D+
Final Score A-

Favorite Track: “Satan in the Wait”

Least Favorite Track: “The Lords Song”

Listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch v=5NB7RBZ1yGY&list=OLAK5uy_lRNKcLYcmtc-CHuytwrTRoGgiX54MasxE

Cardinal Copia’s Plague Sweeps Across the Nations

Art by Emily Avendano

Story by Daniel Anderson

By now, the majority of audiences are familiar with the modern heavy metal aesthetic. Relatively harsh vocals and technical playing styles have become clichés among many metal acts today.

However, such is not the case for a particular Swedish metal act, Ghost.

This band has opted to take a more retro approach to the metal genre, straying away from most of the gimmicks of modern metal. Rather, they cherry-pick various sounds and styles from other hard rock and metal subgenres like thrash metal, doom metal, and the new wave of British heavy metal, all without sounding like they are deriving from one specific act. There is more to their approach to metal than just referencing its various subgenres, however.

Ghost also derives much of their instrumentation from other genres entirely, such as prog rock, pop rock, psychedelic rock, and even Christian music (to emphasize their blasphemous image, of course). In doing so, this band has had more time to focus on key elements such as songwriting and melody.

Ironically, Ghost has stood out among the masses not by advancing the genre forward, but by revisiting what made the metal genre so captivating in the first place.

Ever since the release of their debut Opus Eponymous in late 2010, they have barely had shortages of praise; it seems their older style has helped them reap the benefits.

With subsequent releases like Infestissumam and especially Meliora, Ghost acquired massive critical acclaim, commercial success, and a Grammy award under their Saint-Peter’s-Cross-adorned belt. It seemed as if nothing stood in Ghost’s way.

That is, until their veil of anonymity suddenly vanished when the members sued the frontman in 2016 for payment issues. See, until that point, the band had been performing under the guise of Nameless Ghouls, with their lead singer, now revealed to be a man named Tobias Forge, using the persona of a Satanic pope by the name of Papa Emeritus (three versions, to be precise).

Now that new Ghouls have come to take place of the previous ones, fans were left to question how drastically this would affect the band’s dynamic and playing style.

Fast-forward a few months, and Ghost had dropped two teaser tracks, “Rats” and “Dance Macabre,” to build up the release of their next album, Prequelle. A new caricature from Forge had been introduced, Cardinal Copia, thus giving the band a new identity while still maintaining their traditional showmanship.

Suffice to say, these singles had hardcore fans divisive about the band’s newer and much cleaner sound that had been brought to the table. The tracks appeared to be far more hair or glam-metal-esque than what would’ve been preferred. With all this worry surrounding this album, it seemed more likely than not that Ghost wouldn’t appeal to the listeners adequately.

Thankfully, this was not the case.

Instead, Ghost still delivers their fiendish sound, but rather in a different light. Most importantly, however, is that the dynamic that the new Ghouls have adapted still fits well with the ominous atmosphere that Ghost’s music typically presents. To put it simply, the new band members were great replacements.

The teaser track, “Rats,” opens up their latest collection of unholy psalms, but differently than what would’ve been expected. There is an instrumental intro titled Ashes, which features a little girl’s echo (that’s Forge’s daughter, by the way) singing “Ring around the Rosie” before it explodes into a grand, monolithic instrumentation, typical to Ghost fashion.

This accents the drum intro of “Rats” perfectly. It is all the more theatrical, just the way an album opener should be for this band (after all, they have used this same instrumental-intro strategy before). However, upon inspecting the lyrics, the listener would find that the band isn’t praising their dark overlord as usual, rather speaking of unwonted destruction tearing through without explanation- like rats in a plague: “Into your sanctum/ You let them in/ Now all your loved ones/ And all your kin/ Will suffer punishments beneath the wrath of God/ Never to forgive/ Never to forgive.”

This brings up one of the most essential things to note about this album: the recurring themes of the Bubonic Plague, which differs quite a bit from the albums preceding it. Granted, their presence is still as sacrilegious as ever.

The 3rd track, “Faith,” takes a much more grizzly approach to their flavor of devilishness. It feels much like the tracks “Majesty” and “From the Pinnacle to the Pit” from Meliora in its overall execution; it is the closest to a traditional Ghost track as it gets on the album.

However, the lyrical content has now incorporated a new element into Ghost’s music – a setting if you will. The Black Death in 1347-1351 provides a harsh, depraved backdrop, certainly fitting for a band such as Ghost. Every track on this album (minus the two instrumentals, “Miasma” and “Helvetesfönster) take place in this pestilence-strewn environment.

The presence of a medieval setting was perhaps the smartest decision made for this album, as there are a plethora of ways that their infernal image is incorporated alongside it. The populace of Europe at the time, which mostly followed the Christian clergy, blamed their despair on supernatural forces; forgiveness from God was commonly thought to be a cure. Knowing about this past belief, Ghost takes full advantage of their lyrical content.

Referring back to the track “Faith,” the lyrics could be interpreted as having God looking down upon his pleading, suffering people as they die while Satan is being accused for it: “I am all eyes/ I am all ears/ I am the wall/ And I’m watching you fall/ Because faith is mine!”

Then there’s the track following it, “See the Light,” which is a bit of a role reversal. It appears that this track comes from Satan’s perspective, and yet it is just as impulsive. It is also, lyrically, the most personal track as the allusions to the hardship that the band, Tobias in particular, are too hard too ignore: “Many a rat I have befriended/ And so many a thorn stood between/ But of all the demons I’ve known/ None could compare to you.”

As the track progresses, the instrumentals it becomes increasingly more passionate and grandiose, all while Copia speaks of growing more powerful off the hatred of others.

Whatever the listener interprets as, whether it be politics, religion, the band’s recent controversies, or even as a straightforward story within this setting, the overarching medieval themes fit perfectly with each and every scenario.

However, the instrumental work is what had fans mostly divided at first. Again, the teaser tracks presented a much more whimsical approach as opposed to their previous works (although Ghost was fairly accessible to begin with).

Thankfully the new Nameless Ghouls are given time to shine in the Morning Star’s light as their work has now been fully realized. This is due in-part to the instrumental 5th track, “Miasma.”

With analog synths and beautifully harmonized guitars glossing over the entirety of the track, the Ghouls more than prove their worth collectively. There’s even a saxophone solo near the end, and it miraculously works well. Not to mention, the increasingly grand and glistening production that Ghost provides with each subsequent release help the band sound larger than life.

“Helvetesfönster,” the 9th track, also demonstrates the Ghouls’ instrumental work quite well, but not quite as colorfully or exciting as it was on “Miasma.”

However, there are moments where not all the pieces in the puzzle work in perfect unison. The tracks “Dance Macabre” and “Witch Image” work more nicely in a lyrical sense, but the backing instrumentals don’t compliment the lyrical themes and images as nicely as an older Ghost song would.

Not that the instrumentals are bad, just that they might come across as underwhelming for some listeners, especially those looking for a grittier approach. Though one could just chock it up to purposefully deceiving the listener into thinking that they are innocent arena rock songs. Again, with the Black Death lingering over this album, these tracks help a lot with the flow of this album.

But then there’s track #8, “Pro Memoria,” where the exact opposite occurs. While this track starts off quite promising with a string intro, the lyrics and vocals quickly devolve, especially on the chorus: “Don’t you forget about dying/ Don’t you forget about your friend death/ Don’t you forget that you will die.” The instrumentals that the Ghouls provide work just fine, but the lyrics and vocals come off a bit too campy, even for Ghost’s standards.

But one sore spot on this album is not enough to derail it, as the album still remains consistent with its better tracks.

Sending off the album is the 10th track, “Life Eternal,” which sees from a bit of a different perspective of the Plague than on the previous tracks. It is a ballad that asks the listener if life is really meant to be lived forever; that life, short as it may be, can still be enjoyed and can still receive hope during the most desperate of times- such as the plague: “I know the light grows darker down below/ But in your eyes it’s gone before you know/ This is the moment of just letting go.”

Conceptually, there could not have been a better way to close this album.

All in all, Prequelle is an album that more than adequately follows up their work in the past. It brilliantly placed Medieval setting perfectly contrasts the triumphant instrumentals, insatiably catchy hooks, and magnificent production. In turn, it brings about a menacing, spooky, but also enjoyable atmosphere, perfect for this time of the year.

While, sure, it isn’t as hellish or occult as projects like Opus Eponymous or Meliora, the album is a different beast entirely; it isn’t trying to be like their previous work. Just as Tobias Forge himself expressed, if Ghost kept re-hashing Papa Emeritus over and over again, their image and music would become stale too quickly.

With Cardinal Copia now being handed the reins, Prequelle is the current embodiment of the band’s evolution. The flood gates have now been opened for Ghost to explore even more opportunities and ideas.

Despite the trouble that Ghost underwent preceding its release, this album still proves this band’s tenacity and willpower. Even after the plagues, Europe blossomed afterwards.

 

Verdict

Production A
Instrumentals A-
Vocals B
Lyrics/Songwriting A
Accessibility A-
Final Score A-

Favorite Track(s): “See the Light”, “Miasma”

Least Favorite Track: “Pro Memoria”

Link to album: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_mkP0K2t2xxoe8brQXv6SN_m1hZiv6UKi0

Death Grips is online once again

Art by Sam Haney

By Daniel Anderson

Easy listeners beware, as this band is not for the faint of heart.

Industrial hip-hop and digital hardcore icons Andy Morin, Zach Hill, and Stefan Burnett, aka MC Ride, have apparently been quite busy for the past two years. The last time they were heard was in 2016 with their previous full-length album, Bottomless Pit. This album perpetuated their incredibly unique soundscape by adding even more layers of obscurity to it.

Bottomless Pit seemed to combine everything that had built the band from its foundation, such as their acclaimed 2012 effort The Money Store, with newer and more experimental elements introduced in their 2015 double-sided album, The Powers that B. It was as if they were claiming their dominance among all others who were attempting to duplicate their sound.

Buzz revolving around Death Grips did not just stop at the content they released. The band has had a notorious reputation on the internet for being quite meme-centric, and it is clear that they revel in their reputation. Such was the case for their enigmatic Twitter profile.

After self-deleting their previous account for a short time, they announced their return to the site with the phrase “Death Grips is Online.” Soon enough, seemingly everyone following the account was being retweeted by typing down the same phrase. Often times the followers would accompany the phrase with a meme or an unsettling picture to further the band’s reputation for being disturbing to the average listener.

As 2018 came rolling in, fans were all too eager for Death Grips to make their response to all the internet madness. Alas, the release of the tracklist for their latest concoction drew in as much attention from fans as one would expect. The trio really must have been listening, since the titling of the track, “Death Grips is Online,” certainly confirmed it.

Months strolled by as the band routinely cherry-picked tracks from the new album as teasers for what was to come. The first teaser track, “Streaky,” was considerably more accessible than what most expected, whereas “Black Paint” seemed more of a call-back to the more experimental rock sound of Jenny Death, the second half of The Powers that B.

All the traps were set for Death Grips to hold the listener’s ears hostage. The major concern then was how the band would put the album together, seeing as how they had routinely changed their sound from album to album. Or perhaps a brand new sound for them would better fit the mold. Whatever the case, the band had to surprise the listeners somehow.

Luckily for them, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive, particularly  among fans.

There could not have been a better way to kick off the track-listing than with the song everyone was waiting for. “Death Grips is Online” welcomes the listener for what should be a wild ride ahead of them. Distorted vocals and turntable scratching galore, this track is essentially the audio equivalent to an intense fever dream.

Speedily following the opening is, “Flies,” another teaser track. While it does not add too much to the album sonically or conceptually, it is still an enjoyable track nonetheless. Standard traits that make a Death Grips song great are all present here: unusual synths, cryptic lyrics, and MC Ride’s usual unnerving vocal performance.

Much like the song “Trash” from Bottomless Pit, the actual content of the lyrics from “Flies” portray what appears to be another statement of the band cherishing their disgusting reputation. Ride compares himself to some sort of morbid fantasy: “Should the opportunity arise, vomit me flies/Flies vomit me, together’s unwise, sever all ties.”

Transitioning afterwards comes, “Black Paint,” which could not have been a more different track. The band essentially abandons the industrial hip-hop sound and vibe in exchange for a track that bears more resemblance to a krautrock, almost even alternative rock song. It truly is atypical, even for Death Grips standards.

Malevolent and unsettling as their image typically is, there are moments on this album where it seems as if the band is not taking their content too seriously, but that is not inherently a bad thing. As mentioned before, “Streaky,” is a track that is considerably easier to listen to than most of their other material. It just sounds like the band is having fun with themselves.

There is more than one way that Death Grips expresses their sarcasm. The instrumental track “Outro” is quite hilariously titled, as it is not even the final track. That place goes to another experimental rock-esque track, aptly named, “Disappointed.”

In contrast with some of the more satirical cuts, there are also moments that are truly shudder-inducing. The 11th track,“The Fear,” (also aptly titled) borders on being unlistenable; in a good way, that is. Awry and delayed instrumental-work combined with Ride’s manic screaming make for possibly the most provocative listen on the whole album.

Track #4, “Linda’s in Custody,” is unnerving in a bit of a different way. Despite it being more relatively toned-down, it also serves as what many fans consider another instance of Death Grip’s unusual obsession with incorporating Charles Manson in their work (previous references include “Beware” from their 2011 mixtape Exmilitary and “Spikes” from Bottomless Pit).

Even though Year of the Snitch is not the most hard-hitting or caustic release that Death Grips has put together, it certainly strikes as something the new listener should not start with. Yet the challenge of merely listening to it is one of its most admirable traits.

This album finds the band once again in peak form, but not in the same way they were on more accessible projects like The Money Store. What they present here is bringing their melting pot of soundscapes to new heights; another change of pace.

The instrumental track from The Powers that B, “Death Grips 2.0,” is all too prophetic. Perhaps this album really does fulfill the title.

It really is quite an achievement for a group that has been together for almost a decade to be able to still surprise listeners with each release. Year of the Snitch is definitely no exception.

Verdict

Production: B+
Vocals: B+
Accessibility: C-
Variety: A+
Final Score: B+

Favorite Track: “Dilemma”

Least Favorite Track: “Outro”

Release date: June 22, 2018

Composers: Stefan Burnett, Zach Hill, Andy Morin

Producers: Zach Hill, Andy Morin

Genres: Industrial hip-hop, Alternative hip-hop, Rap rock, Experimental Rock, Krautrock, Digital Hardcore, Cursed-Images-in-Sound-Form